Manna

Well Ladies – I am officially on a roll.  I have three littles in school and have a total of four hours to myself, five days a week.  Last week was the first week of this new schedule and I have to laugh – the day before my youngest started preschool – I was worried I would have too much free time.  I was slightly concerned that I might just roll around in bed all morning long and eat potato chips and watch “As the World Turns” or something similar.  Jason just laughed and shook his head when I told him my deepest worry for the Fall season.  How could he?!

Then – last week happened and it was a mixture of frenzy, glory and tears.  The words out of my mouth by the end of the week – “Four hours isn’t NEAR enough time!  No!!!”

I’d like to say that this is more of the perseverance that I spoke of in the last blog post – but I’d be kidding.  I am thankful for my small allotment of time.  It flies – but it’s filling my soul.

I’m listening to some different podcasts while I tidy the house (which how in the world could the 5 of us make such a mess in the morning that it takes me 90 minutes to pick up once everyone is up and running?! – does anyone else experience this?).  I’m starting to work on some projects that have been sitting on the shelf for far too long.  And I’m working hard to wake up before the boys for those 20 magical moments so I can read, journal, reflect, and pray.  Ladies – for real – this last part is so hard for me – but it is filling my soul.

Recently, I came across this devo that I had tucked into a rickety chest of drawers next to my desk until I finished this study which took me forev to do!  The devotional was given to me by a precious woman in one of my groups and in the introduction – the author, Nancy Guthrie talks about a horrific time in her life and her search for what could possibly get her through the next day, what could possibly fill her soul.  It was the author’s sister-in-law that answered – “manna”.

Just as the Israelites depended on God for food to get them through the day for 40 years – we as well depend on God to nourish our souls so that we as well can get through our days.  Especially when we think we might not make it.

And just as the Israelites couldn’t store up the food (except for the Sabbath) – nor can we.  As Nancy says – “every day, we need a fresh touch, a fresh word to nourish us and sustain us.  Yesterday’s manna, yesterday’s insights may inform us, but every day we need something new to keep us moving forward toward healing” (p.xvi, Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Hope).  LURVE that!

These fresh touches, fresh words – oftentimes they do come in the still and quiet of the morning while my feet hit the pavement or while I am sitting in my cramped office, that also serves as a catch-all, reading a study or journaling to God.  But other times these touches and words come from my community – family and friends that know me.  And then there are those sweet times when it’s God disguised as a stranger.

Yesterday – the manna for my day – the thing that kept me moving forward toward healing was in the midst of a conversation I had with a fellow group facilitator.  We were processing something that came up in her group and she asked – when we choose not to show up – is it because we can’t accept ourselves right where we are at?

Her question gave me pause.  I’ve thought of all the times when I choose hiding over showing up.  When I lurk into the shadows instead of bravely walking into the light and saying – here I am – pain, hurt, ugliness and all.

It also had me wondering – what comes first – accepting ourselves (in isolation) before sharing the ugly with others?  Or sharing the ugly with others (in community) and then learning to accept ourselves as we see those around us accept us first?

I believe it’s the latter that is the more likely way we experience healing.  And that is a hard pill to swallow.  I’m reminded of something I re-read recently – We get hurt in relationships.  And – we heal in relationships.

As you continue on your journey toward hope, healing and wholeness – what is the manna that is getting you through today?  It could be words of truth in a conversation (like my example above) or it could be encouragement or grace or love.  I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

xo – Shelley

 

 

If you’re new on this journey – three quick tips

Okay ladies – something really strange is happening this summer.  Clearly, my children are getting older.  And although that doesn’t mean that they need me less (because I am beginning to wonder if they actually need me MORE as they get older) – I am experiencing a bit more room to breathe compared to summers before.

Maybe this is because my boys are sleeping in until 8am (I know, I never ever thought that I’d say “sleeping in until 8am” counts as sleeping in – wow, what motherhood will do to your perspective!).  Maybe it’s because they are able to ride their bikes around the block without me.  Or maybe it’s because I can now set a timer in the morning and they will make up their beds, brush their teeth, get dressed, and go potty in 10 minutes or less.  Can I get a Hallelujah – Amen?!

With this room to breathe I’ve had the opportunity to talk on the phone to a couple of hurting wives that I normally wouldn’t have the time to talk to.

During these phone calls – it was almost as if I was talking to my younger self at the on-slaught of this journey.  I heard myself in their voices – in their fears, their what-if’s, their confusion, their not knowing what to do next or how this could ever turn into good.

It got me to thinking about some of the quick tips I would have benefited from hearing early in the process.  Simply some concepts to keep close to heart as the days, weeks and months play out.  Here are a few of them –

Listen to his actions, not his words.  

So often, I will hear a wife tell me that he is saying all the right things.  Almost like she is assuring me that he is on the right track.  It might be that he says he wants to make the marriage work.  Or it might be that he says he is done with the affair and hasn’t been in touch with him/her (the affair partner).

Although it feels good to hear these things – don’t get too comfortable yet.  Its important that these promises are backed up with actions.

For instance – Is he initiating getting into counseling?  Encouraging you to go to Restore?  Making plans to go to EMB?  Is he looking for an accountability group through his church or EMB or otherwise?  All with little to no persuasion from you?

Regarding being done with the affair – is he doing a T-30 journal ( see Worthy of Her Trust for more information on this) that he shares with you daily or leaves on your doorstep?  Has he called and ended the affair?  This includes you being on the phone so that you can hear him share that 1) he is done, 2) it was a terrible mistake decision, 3) it crushed your heart, and 4) he is now fully working on mending the marriage.

Remember – actions mean much everything and words mean very little nothing early on in this journey.

You are worth the cost (time, financial, etc.) it will take to invest in help. 

There is really good help out there these days.  However, women struggle to get this help when they find out that their husband has betrayed them.  Two common reasons that I hear often – no time and no money.

I get this.  Recently – we have really struggled with parenting.  We’ve considered getting some sort of help over the last couple of years but it always seemed like when we got to that point of crisis (and needing help) – we quickly worked through it and the immediacy of the problems went to the back burner…until they surfaced again.  Which they always did.

Sound familiar?

It wasn’t until the pain of change became easier to bear than the pain of staying the same that we got sick and tired of being sick and tired and said enough is enough and sought help.

It’s expensive.  It’s time consuming.  And we knew we had to give it a shot – we were desperate.  We’d have to rearrange our priorities for a season – or else…  Because we couldn’t keep doing life this way without someone in our corner that could give us next steps and hold us accountable to make some changes.

Girls – the investment in time and money has been SO worth it!  We are now three months in and the dynamics at home are CHANGING.  It’s made a HUGE difference.

So if you are reading this and you are saying that you still don’t have the time or the money – I want you to ask yourself – what else is preventing you from seeking help?  Could it be fear of facing the pain?  Could it be lack of control of the unknown?

Anger is your friend.

I noticed during one of the convos that it was me getting all bent out of shape more so than the woman I was speaking to.  I got off the phone and wondered – why?!  Maybe it’s because she was in shock or denial.  Maybe it’s because she was on the phone with me and – rightfully so – guarded.

All I know is – it’s incredibly important to engage the anger.  A gal in one of my support groups always says – when she feels the anger – she knows it’s something to press into as it will help her figure out what she needs and it will also help her work through the pain. (There is so much more I could say about anger – another time.  For now, one quick suggestion if you are having difficulty finding your inner anger – I’d suggest reading this book.)

Would love to hear from you – so please join in on the conversation.  xo – Shelley

our wedding anniversary – 2018

Just a couple of days ago – Jason and I passed the 18-year mark in marriage.

While most couples would celebrate this with a card to each other at a minimum and a dinner and night away at a hotel at the other end of the spectrum – Jason and I did none of the above.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was driving to Red Rocks for an early morning workout that I realized…. it’s our anniversary!

As Jason and I went through the day together – we started to be silly and hug each other – then look at each other with one eye brow raised and say – Happy Anniversary.  I know what you are thinking so I’ll just say it out loud – this was the most non-glamorous anniversary imaginable.  No cards, no gifts, no nothing.

At least that is what it might look like from the outside.

However – on the inside there was so much more happening.

For starters, we talked throughout the day about how grateful we were to be married to each other.  And how innocent and naive our 23-year-old selves were on that day as we walked down the aisle.

I realized that – at least for the day – I had much less bitterness toward Jason than I had in the past on our anniversary.  In the past – I’ve felt so much hurt on our anniversary.  Because our wedding was a big fat lie.  What a waste.

Yet fast forward to this year – and I felt more grace than ever before for our younger selves.  More grace for Jason – knowing he was in a vicious cycle that was trying to forever take him down.  More grace for myself – that I wasn’t stupid or ignorant or blind but that I truly loved him and saw the best in him, not the worst – and certainly not his sexual integrity issues.

Second, I was able to take the day to remind myself that I have no regrets in staying with Jason.  Sure – there are no promises – I realize he is always one step away from blowing up our lives again.  I also realize that I’m one step away, too.  We are simply not the best CEO’s of our lives.  That’s why we need Jesus.

This – in fact – might be one of my biggest take-aways from this journey to date – we are all just one step away from blowing it up.

I used to think I was about infinity steps away – because I would NEVER hurt Jason by being unfaithful to him.  But as God has chipped away at my hard outer shell of arrogance and pride throughout this journey – I now see my faulty ways, too.  I need Jesus every. single. day.

Maybe I haven’t hurt Jason in the same ways he has hurt me – but I’ve hurt him nonetheless.  I am broken too.

(One caveat I need to mention here – you don’t need to look at your brokenness at the on-set of this journey.  If you are new in this process – you work on grieving – which includes a lot of kleenex, tears, snot and anger.  You’ll know when it’s time to work on you – but this is not the time and you are not the cause of your husband’s choices.)

And last – I was reminded of how much more I like myself today than ever before.  Girls – this one is just as HUGE.  Because when my marriage started to blow – I was convinced I was ruined.  My heart would never repair.  My soul was damaged for good.  Heaven come quick.

My biggest fear was I could never get the images, the stories, the experiences that my husband had without me – out of my mind.  I was tainted. Ruined. My life was over.

I am SO grateful to sit here in this coffee shop today as I type this post and tell you this – that has NOT been the case.

Sure – it has taken years to get to an inner peace in my heart and soul.  It’s taken a TON of grieving – more than I’d like to admit.  It’s taken going round and round with God and with Jason to get that repair work done.  Dang – it’s been intense.

And it’s been worth it.

So if you’re down and out and wonder – how will I ever get there – know that it’s one small step at a time.  It’s about the process.  Whether your marriage makes it or whether your marriage goes down in flames – know that YOU can and will make it.

Don’t stop fighting.  Never ever.

What is God calling you to do next?  Step out and do it – for yourself, for your marriage, for your children, for the legacy that you will leave behind.  Don’t wait.  Go now.

xo – Shelley

 

 

 

A half-gallon of ice cream versus connecting – it’s a hard choice.

About a month ago now, I had one of the most painfully awkward sessions with my life coach to date.  I could have thought of a million things to do besides chat with her for fifty minutes.  I was in such a terrible funk – the LAST thing I wanted to do was to TALK.

I don’t know if any of you can relate to this – but when I’m feeling not just down but in the dumps – it is incredibly difficult for me to reach out.  Tillamook chocolate chip ice cream and my bed covers sound much more appealing.

However – this is quite the opposite of what I “preach” to the ladies that come along side me via support groups or at speaking events.  This journey of healing from betrayal has shown me that it’s being fully known (intimacy) with those that I feel safe with that will actually help me move through the down-dumps with grace; not isolating under the covers with a half-gallon of ice cream. {Although seriously?!  That sounds really nice in the moment!  Can we call that some self-care or what?!  All kidding aside – the problem is – after the ice cream is downed – and I come out from under the covers – I’ve done nothing to move through the feelings.  I’m back at square one.}

And yet, the default setting is broken and my flesh will always want to hide and isolate more than the desire to reach out, connect and share it like it is.  Yes, I point to Adam and Eve for part of the explanation – because what did they do in the Garden of Eden?  They hid.

There is a residual level of this desire to hide in all of us.

But why else might it be so hard for me to reach out when I’m in the spiral?  A couple of other reasons come to mind –

The fear of not being loved or accepted if I’m not happy.  Not sure when or where this fear developed but in a world where we put on a mask when we walk out the door – it’s no surprise that I fear I won’t be accepted if I’m down.

Lack of control.  I talk to so many women that say they have control issues.  Me too!  It’s just I like to put a different spin on it – I’m a control enthusiast!  Being down and sharing it with others – the ugly cry, the darkness, the hopelessness – it’s pretty out of control.  And that’s not a comfortable place for me.

The fear that if I actually allow myself to go there – I’ll stay there forever.  Oftentimes I believe if I can just stay on the edge of a complete melt-down, I’m doing myself a favor.  Because if I do melt – there is no turning back and who knows HOW long it will take to climb back out of the hole.  Taps into the powerlessness mentioned above.

The list goes on and on – the point is – there are some real reasons that I move toward complete isolation and withdrawal when I’m starting to spiral.

Back to my session with my life coach – I realized I’d never truly allowed anyone (except Jason) to see me the way I presented to her that Thursday afternoon in April.  I was convinced by the end of the session that she’d fire me.  And if she didn’t fire me on the spot – certainly when we met again – she’d give me the axe.

But girls – two weeks later when our next session came around – she started our session by saying this – “I have more admiration and respect for you because of how you came onto the call and sat with me on the call two weeks ago.”

I wanted to fall out of my chair (but thankfully was firmly planted in it).  She didn’t fire me.  In fact, she did quite the opposite.  She loved me even more.

The TRUTH is – when we show our brokenness to others – they love us more.  When we confess our shortcomings, when we share our fears, when we look up with tears in our eyes and say – I’m a mess – that’s when love comes a-pouring in.

I KNOW this because I see it happen in my groups, I’ve seen it happen with Jason, and I experienced this big time one month ago with Dale.

AND… I also know, that there will probably never be a day when this comes easy.

So I’m closing with this – I’m begging you to show up by being you.  If you are down, say it.  If you feel hopeless – express it.  If you feel angry – get it out.  Let’s all commit to bringing our full selves to the table.  Not what we think others want to see, but how we actually feel.  Right now.  Today.  And every day.

Amen.

On What I’m Learning About Worthiness – Part 3

Alright ladies, I wanted to loop back to a topic I’ve mentioned several times here recently on the blog, that is oh-so-close to my heart – Worthiness.  If you need a quick refresher, you can read this blog post as well as this one and you’ll be ready to go.

Before we dig in to part three of worthiness – I want to make sure each of you knows about the Restore workshop in Orange County, CA in just over three weeks.  This is a workshop specifically designed for women desiring healing after betrayal.  There is an incredible team of women there that have walked this journey and are ready to support you as you take your next step toward healing.  Speaking of worthiness – you are worthy of whatever it might take to get to this workshop.  There is so much healing, hope and encouragement awaiting those that attend!

Okay, so here we go:  I shared in the last worthiness post about one of the lies that I repeat to myself over and over again. The lie is – “I’m a pig”. I shared about where this lie came from – really the situations in my past that gave this lie a place to reside in my soul.

Remember, these situations are born out of sin. Not just others sins but my sins as well.

When we begin to believe these lies, we also begin to isolate ourselves and self-protect. Because let’s get honest – do we really want others to hear what we really think about ourselves? Absolutely not. The lies represent deep hurts and fears. They represent our shame.

So we start to hold onto them and protect them. We start to change how we present ourselves to the world in order to make sure they stay our little secrets. We’ll call these changes we make the masks we wear.

This, my friends, is quite the opposite of living a vulnerable and authentic life.

Do you see how crafty Satan is? Scary, huh.

As I’ve stated many-a-times here – the antithesis to shame is intimacy. Remember, intimacy means fully knowing another and being fully known.  Intimacy is how we discard the masks and get real about ourselves, our lives, and who we really are on the inside.

I want to make sure we are all on the same page – the lies we hear in our heads lead to shame, isolation and insecurity. With that being said, the best way we can work through them is via intimacy and connection with God, self and others.

So guess what it’s time to do – it’s time to drag those lies into the light and share them with others. You can do that here (as I did in the last blog post) but I also want you to do it with a trusted friend that knows you well.  Put on your brave pants ladies!  You can do this!

Jason is working on a book and as I was proofing it last week, I was shaken by something he shares.  He mentions faulty core beliefs which are the same as the lies I talk about in this post.  Here is what Jason says:

The point here is that these faulty core beliefs will be resident as adults, and thus incorporated into a marriage. As you can imagine, sexual betrayal then does a number on these beliefs, further engraining them into our consciousness. In my opinion, this is the most acute, most insidious, most tragic damage done by sexual betrayal. As husbands we are called to create a space where our wives’ deepest hurts and the most scarring wounds on their souls can be healed, covered, smoothed, and renewed….Instead, betrayal accomplishes nearly the exact opposite.

I believe this is a really poignant reminder as to why we must work through these lies.  Unfortunately, betrayal does do the exact opposite of what God intends to occur in marriage.  Instead of the marriage being that safe place to work toward sanctification; when betrayal strikes, it becomes the unsafe place where the lies satan wants us to believe become cemented in.

So here is your homework:  What I’d love for you to continue to do with me is to work on these lies.  Share them here.  Confess them to God and to someone you trust.

Also, don’t forget to look backward from the lie and identify what experiences caused you to believe what you believe (think the origin of the lie or the wound).  In addition, see if you can identify how you’ve changed who you are (think:  the mask you wear) in order to make sure people don’t start to pick up on the lies you believe about yourself. (And if you are super nerdy like me, you can come up with a table where you keep track of all these things – the wound, the lie and the mask.)

One of my groups has gotten quite good at naming these masks – here are a couple to choose from:  perfect christian mask, all together mom mask, the tidied house mask.

We talk ALL about this at the Restore workshop as we walk toward tapping into our God-given worthiness.  I’d love for you to join me there if you want to learn more.

Once you have exposed your lies, the final step is to change them into empowering beliefs.  I’m going to loop back to this in part four of the worthiness series and share with you exactly how to do this.

xo-Shelley

 

 

On What I’m Learning About Worthiness – Part 2

In the last blog post, I shared a bit about worthiness. I believe that the antithesis of worthiness is insecurity. And for any of you that have followed me here, you know insecurity has been a battle for me.

It wasn’t that long ago that I said enough is enough and I hired a life coach to help me dig into this insecurity stuff and see if I could get to the bottom of it.

I have the feeling I’m at the beginning of this insecurity to worthiness journey. It’s complicated for sure and it’s going to be a process.

Here are a couple of things that I’m learning –

  • Repeating to myself that I’m worthy isn’t enough. What I’m finding is – I need to identify the lies I’m repeating to myself and then work forward and backward from there.
  • By backward, I mean where did those lies come from? What happened in my past that solidified those lies (in other words, what are the wounds I’ve endured that embedded those lies in my head)?
  • By forward, I mean how am I isolating myself and not showing the real me based on the lies I believe about myself? And how can I replace those negative beliefs (or lies) with empowering beliefs in order to change the script in my head?

Clearly, this is a process and it isn’t something I’m going to work through quickly.

What I started doing was simply reserving space in my journal to start writing down the lies that I hear in my head about myself. It’s been sobering to see them in black and white.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I had just finished with a group call and I felt hungry. And probably more than physical hunger, I also felt emotionally drained. I was searching for something to replenish me.

I grabbed a box of crackers from the kitchen and stood at the bar and started eating them. As I was putting one cracker in my mouth after another, I heard myself say, “I’m a pig.” Girls, who knows how many times I’ve heard that voice – that I’m a pig. What I do know is – it’s been hundreds of times. And guess what – I haven’t even been aware of it! That day in the kitchen, everything changed. Because I heard the voice loud and I ran to my journal and wrote it down. “I’m a pig.” As I looked at my (at that time) short list of words, I was overcome with how I’ve treated myself. No wonder I am struggling so much with insecurity!

I then started to wonder – where did that lie come from? At what point in my life did I start to hear that lie? How long have I been carrying it around, allowing it to weigh me down?

The first memory that came to mind was of me and one of my brothers playing ping-pong in our garage when I was a youngster. I was a pretty darn good ping-pong player (thank you very much!) and I remember he was becoming frustrated with my apparent expertise in the game (I’m being sarcastic, ladies). He was keeping score of our game on the wall of the garage and at one point, he walked over to my name scribbled on the garage wall and wrote next to my name “fatty”.

Other memories came to mind as well – insinuations that I needed to lose a few here and there.

What I want you ladies to keep in mind is it doesn’t have to be some excruciatingly painful memory. It could be, but it could also be a lot of little hurts through the years.

If you are interested in joining me on this journey of becoming a woman living life from a place of worthiness, I encourage you to do a couple of things:

  • start keeping a running list of the lies you believe in your head (See mine above if you need a little inspiration…  and yes, this turns my stomach to see my lies in black and white and then to share them here.)
  • start asking God to show you where these lies came from

God loves us so much and He is willing to expose these lies we believe and also show us where they came from if we ask for His help.

This is deep, cleansing work. Come on girls, let’s do this together!

On what I’m learning about worthiness – Part 1

About six months ago, I told Jason that it was really important for us to celebrate my big 4-0. I wanted just he and I to go away and spend some time together. What I didn’t want was for my birthday to just be another day or another birthday.

Ladies, I know you will get this – this is a big deal – for me to actually want to spend time with Jason. The reason being for many years in our recovery, spending time with him alone was the very last thing I wanted to do. Too vulnerable. Too risky. Just too much.

Sure, some of this was simply because I was recovering from the unthinkable. I also know for myself, it was more than that – it was also because I never learned to be fully known, fully intimate, and fully vulnerable.

Over the course of the years, this landscape has changed (hence the reason I deeply desired to spend time alone with Jason for my 40th). Thanks in part to Jason’s patience and persistence. I also wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for a safe place where I’ve practiced being fully known with a group of women. My sacred inner circle.

So Jason went to planning and I stepped back and enjoyed not having to deal with the stress of prepping a trip. In the midst of the planning, Jason realized how grateful he is that we don’t keep secrets from each other anymore. Planning my surprise reminded him of hiding certain parts of his life from me. He was so ready for the big day to come when he could fill me in on our plans.

That day came today. As I write, we are headed west on a plane, taking us to our warmer than Denver destination. Jason filled me in on all his searching and planning and stressing. During the midst of our conversation, I looked at him and said, “wow, you must feel really vulnerable doing all of this”. And he agreed, completely.

I for the most part sat in this very seat in shock. As I tried to put my internal feelings into words, what I realized is – I felt vulnerable too. And more than that, I questioned my worthiness in all these plans that he so carefully pieced together.

Worth.

For me, explaining and conceptualizing worth is challenging. Worthiness is knowing, believing and living out the fact that I am enough. No matter what I do or don’t do in a given day, because I am a child of God – I am enough.

It seems for me – that somewhere between those years in Sunday school and present day, I forgot about this. Or maybe I never fully conceptualized this as a child. I am a baby Christian after all. What I DO know, is when I listen to my boys’ music and when I read Jesus Storybook Bible to them – it’s loud and clear. God loves us more than anything else and we were born into this world as worthy. There is absolutely nothing we could do or not do to take it away.

So why, then, has it been so hard for me to live my life out of a place of worthiness? To live from a place of deep security and wholeness? To believe that on my 40th birthday, I am worth others going out of their way to celebrate me?

This is something ladies that I’m currently wrestling through.

And here’s what I think – it goes alllllllll the way back to Adam and Eve. When Eve ate the apple and sin entered the world, the wounding began. It’s from the wounds I’ve endured – both thanks to my sins and thanks to other’s sins that my worthiness slowly, over time, started to crumble.

So it’s not enough (no pun intended) to just repeat to myself – “I’m worthy, I’m enough.” I’ve got to go deep. Identify the lies I believe in my head that are causing my insecurity and thus my lack of worth. Then trace those back to the wounds I’ve endured.

With that insight comes validation and empathy. With that insight, I can start to replace the lies with the truth. And with that truth, I believe I can start to slowly piece together my worth as God intended it to be.

I’ll keep you posted!

xo-Shelley

Sitting in Pain

Hi Girls!  Summer is in full-swing here.  I love Colorado weather in the summer – cool nights, hot days and stormy afternoons.  You never know what you’re gonna get.  Kinda like life – you never know…

I’ve been sitting with some ugly feelings in my heart.  Some questions that have gone unanswered.  I’ve prayed to God for clarity.  For Him to show me which way to go.

Even though these answers I’m looking for and this pain I’m sitting in aren’t betrayal related (oh thank the heavens), I get that for many of you reading this – it is.

habakkuk

You are sitting in pain.

Waiting on God.  Waiting on your husband.

For clarity.  For answers.  For someone or something to take away the pain.

If you’re like me – i want to DO something about it.  For instance, write a nasty email out of my pain.  {Probably not my best move.}  Not that doing something is always bad.  In fact, it’s really hard to know – when should we move, when should we take that leap of faith?  And when should we be still.  And wait.  And not react or respond.

I came across the book of Habakkuk last week after I was reviewing some verses for my summer Bible study.  In particular, I was drawn to Habakkuk 2:1.  It says, “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post.  There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how He will answer my complaint.”

I love it!

This is a man, a prophet, that was willing to have an honest conversation with God.  To share what he was upset over, to ask God the hard questions.  Habakkuk was concerned about the injustice he was seeing all around him.  He was asking questions like – “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Habakkuk 1:2) and “…why then do you tolerate the treacherous?” Habakkuk 1:13).

It was after these questions that he told God he’d wait for his answer.  He’d stand at the watchtower and see how God would answer his complaints.

The name Habakkuk means “he that embraces”.  It also means “to wrestle”.  When I first read this, I felt a bit confused because I feel like embracing and wrestling although similar, are also very different.  Both are expressions of vulnerability and being in physical proximity to another.  Yes, they are similar.  But embrace has a connotation of love and connection while wrestling has a connotation of struggle and pain.

What reading Habakkuk is teaching me is that it’s when we grapple and wrestle with our situations – it’s through this that we have the potential to move closer to God.  To connect with Him {and others} in the midst of our pain.

The potential.  Because we will go one of two ways – we will move closer to God or move further from Him.

And it’s SO hard for me to move closer.  To sit with the pain and not react.  To fully believe that God is okay with me when I have these questions and complaints.  To wait on Him to speak to me.

goddoesntwaste2

Whether this is through His word, through that still small voice I wish I was better at hearing, or through the people I’m connected with here on this earth.

Thank you God for hearing our complaints.  Thank you that it’s okay to grapple with the situations we’ve been handed here on this earth.  Hear our cries and refine us through the painful parts of this journey.  May we each be stronger, braver and closer to you and each other as we work through our pain.  Amen.

As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Do you feel you can freely ask God your questions?  Do you find it as hard as I do to sit in pain?  xo-Shelley

On the road toward true intimacy

Yesterday evening, Jason was trying to talk to me.  I was busily finishing a photo gallery on one of the walls in our living room.  (I decided to spend my free time in the month of May redecorating our living room.  One of the rooms I had never really decorated since we moved into our home three plus years ago.)

picture gallery

Jason was wanting for us to make some decisions about a couple of potential trips we would be taking.  I didn’t want to engage in the conversation.  So I kept giving him vague answers.  He ended up calling me out.  Telling me I was being ambiguous and he couldn’t continue to have a dead end conversation with me.

And I realized, I was afraid to tell him what I really felt.  What I really thought.  What I might need.  And what I wanted.  It was obvious my feelings, needs, thoughts and wants were conflicting with his, I knew this already.  And I didn’t want to engage in this emotional intimacy with him because I was afraid.  I was afraid to be vulnerable.  Afraid to disagree.  Afraid of what Jason might think of me.

Does any of this sound familiar?

As I started to share with Jason what I really thought about these upcoming trips and all the emotions they stirred inside of me, I recognized that it felt so much better to get it out.  I actually felt relief.  I also recognized that I still do it – I bottle up my feelings.  I don’t let them out.  And this, my friends, has gotten me into serious trouble in the past.  It’s called a breakdown.  And I’ve had one.  It’s no fun.

I recently read a book entitled Mending a Shattered Heart.  As I was flipping through it earlier to prepare for the book review, I came across four key questions that the author believes are the essence of intimacy.  Just to be clear, the success of a relationship isn’t about physical appearance, social status, or career; as most of us think.  The author proposes its more about this:

  • Does my partner freely admit his or her mistakes?
  • Do I feel safe enough to readily admit my mistakes?
  • Can I share the darkest part of myself?
  • Can I hear about the dark side of my partner?

These are the extremes – talking about the darkest parts of ourselves and admitting when we make mistakes.  What about just expressing how we feel?  What we need?  What we think?  What we want?  (These are known as The Four Questions with my go-to girls.)  It seems to me that the former (sharing about the dark parts of me) are much more difficult to share than the latter (sharing about my needs, wants, feelings).  And for me – these latter still prove to be difficult at times.

For most of you reading this blog, you might not feel safe enough yet to share exactly how you feel and what you need.  I’m twelve years into this process and my husband has been in active recovery for twelve years as well.  And it’s still something I struggle with.

I need to land this blog-post-plane and I’m going to do so with this:  ask yourself – are you able to freely express your needs, wants, thoughts and feelings to your husband?  And likewise, does your husband do the same with you?  In addition, are you freely able to share the darkest parts of yourself as well as your mistakes?  And likewise, does your husband do so with you?

If the answer is no – it might be that you aren’t to a point in your relationship where you feel safe enough doing this.  If that’s the case, ask yourself what you need to feel safer.  If you are feeling safe in your relationship, why have you chosen not to engage at this deeper level?

And whatever your answer is – know that I’m still on this journey, too.  Figuring it out, day by day.  I’d love to think that some of this stuff becomes second nature.  But after living three decades of my life in a non-intimate sort of way, I can’t expect it to all of a sudden become easy.  Not yet at least.

As always, I’d love to hear from you.  xo-Shelley

 

Making it through the holidays (you will have to read on to understand!)

I found this blog post recently.  I intended to send it out just before Christmas.  But we all know how craZy December can be.  And it never made it out.

I was reminded that I had it after a gal in one of my groups courageously opened up about the array of emotions she felt when she went to the store to pick out a card for her husband’s birthday.  Her husband has worked hard in his recovery.  And so has she.  And yet, looking for a card that would mirror how she feels in her heart was, well, impossible.  I can SO relate.  Keep reading for more…

jesusbridgesthegap

Special events including birthdays and holidays can be especially difficult for us wives, whether you are two weeks in or two years into your process.  I’ve had the chance to dialogue with some of my groups about this over the last month.  How do we enjoy the holiday season yet still be true to our current feelings?  How do we go to special gatherings with the man that has betrayed us and pretend like everything is fine?  How do the holidays not sting and hurt more than any other day?

This is hard.  Really hard.  For the longest, I used Jason’s birthday as a gauge for the condition of my heart towards him.  It was for many many years (probably around 7 to be exact), that I’d go select a card for Jason and as I looked through them, never could find one that didn’t make me want to rip him (and it) to shreds.  All that to say, early on, Jason didn’t get a birthday card.  And at some point, as my heart started to thaw, I was able to find a simple card that would do.  It’s only been in the last four years or so that I’ve been able to select a card for him and felt wholly in agreement with what the card said.

If you find yourself feeling like you are having to wear a mask this holiday season, here’s what I’d like to tell you:

  • Listen sweets (this is a name I use with much adoration and affection), it’s not going to be this way forever.  I pinky-swear promise.
  • You’re in good company.  I’ve been there and so has every other woman that shares a similar story.
  • Depending on your life stage and the family and friends you are going to be with, it’s okay to give yourself permission to unplug from your present reality and allow yourself to enjoy the day (with or without your husband).
  • Even this (see preceding point) will take a lot of work.  You may have to do a “brain stop” every ten seconds. (A brain-stop is when you stop yourself as your mind starts to wander and conjure up the past.  You can say “STOP!” out loud, or to yourself.  Just know that your family may give you strange looks if you say this out loud.)
  • It’s also okay to open your hands wide and grieve hard.  Get it out.  Know that God meets you where you are.  He’s kept a record of your every tear (psalm 56:8).
  • Gently speak truth to yourself:  It’s because of Jesus that we don’t have to be perfect.  We don’t have to forgive perfectly, grieve perfectly, or go through this process perfectly.  Jesus bridges the gap for us.

Wishing each of you a very merry Christmas.  I’m so thankful for YOU.  And I’m so looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

Love – Shelley

I guess I should say, wishing you a happy summer!  And I AM so thankful for each and every one of you.  What about you – have you found it especially difficult to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or other holiday?  Does it give you peace to know it took me 7-8 years before my heart was aligned with the birthday cards I perused at the store?